A new softball season couldn't come soon enough for the Harlem High School softball team.
The Lady Bulldogs hit the field again last Wednesday for the first time since last season's head coach Melissa Chase was arrested and indicted on one count of sexual assault against a person enrolled in a school.
After an offseason full of getting past that difficulty, the Lady Bulldogs are now under new leadership.
Mike Leverett, a former professional baseball player and Harlem High School's long-time security officer, has taken over the Lady Bulldog softball program and will serve as its new head coach. He was in the dugout leading the team when they started play in the annual Greenbrier Slugfest at Patriots Park last Wednesday.
"You can tell they want to win," Leverett said after the first game of the day. "A lot of it is just teaching right now."
Leverett's team finished the game in a 1-1 tie with Ola, a Class AAA state playoff team during the 2006 season. Lady Bulldog starter Kristen Pitchford knocked a hard-hit grounder down the third base line with a runner on third to score Harlem's lone run and earn a tie.
Although Greenbrier's Slugfest was the first time Leverett had coached the Harlem team, it wasn't his first time as a head coach. For the past 20 years he's served in one capacity or another as a softball coach on the recreation and travel ball levels. He led the Columbia County Recreation Department's fastpitch softball team to a Dixie Debs World Series Championship in July 2005.
He's also served as a coach and leader of the Georgia Rockers - a travel softball team that fields some of the top talent in the Augusta area. However, by taking the Harlem High School job, Leverett will have to give that up.
"I can't do that any more," he said. "Travel ball is different than high school ball. There are more rules, and I can't coach anyone who would be in the Harlem feeder system."
Leverett will officially take over the Harlem softball team as a lay coach. The team is required to have a full-time educator on the coaching staff, and assistant coach Jonathan Holley will fill that role.
"I'm excited because I heard he was a good coach," Harlem starting centerfielder Alana Dyson said. "He's a lot harder on us. It's different, but that's good."
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